A US Federal agent and a Kenyan executive: Families reveal the identity of detained Binance executives in Nigeria

David Afolayan
According to a statement by a representative of the families of the detained Binance executives, their names are Tigran Gambaryan, a former crypto-focused US federal agent, and Nadeem Anjarwalla, a British-Kenyan…
A US Federal agent and a Kenyan executive: Families reveal the identity of detained Binance executives in Nigeria

Tigran Gambaryan, a former crypto-focused US federal agent, and a Kenyan Binance executive, Nadeem Anjarwalla, have been identified as captives of the Nigerian Government in Abuja and without access to their passports for two weeks.

According to a document shared with Technext by a representative of both families, both Binance executives have been stripped of their passports and held in confinement at a government property in the Nigerian capital of Abuja. According to it, neither Gambaryan nor Anjarwalla has been informed of any criminal charge against them.

According to a Financial Times report, the two executives were detained as part of the government’s actions to arrest the free fall of its local currency, the Naira. The report claimed that the executives flew to Nigeria following the country’s decision to ban several cryptocurrency trading websites in the previous week.

Without giving their names, the report also claimed that they had been detained by the office of Nigeria’s national security adviser and their passports had been seized. 

This followed speculation on exchanges claim by the Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, Olayemi Cardoso and an announcement that the CBN was collaborating with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Police, and the Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) to “protect Nigerians” against market manipulation.

President Tinubu appoints Olayemi Cardoso as the 11th CBN Governor
CBN Governor, Yemi Cardoso

Read more: 2 senior Binance executives detained in Nigeria as naira and P2P become inactive on platform

Mr Bayo Onanuga, a special adviser to the Nigerian president, accused Binance of setting the exchange rate for Nigeria and hijacking the role of the central bank. “Crypto should be banned in our country or else this bleeding of our currency will continue unabated,” he wrote on X.

Recall that Mr Onanuga also told The Wall Street Journal that Binance was cooperating with authorities and that compensation fee was being discussed.

About the arrest of Binance executives

Tigran Gambaryan, a US federal agent has led landmark investigations that took down cryptocurrency thieves and money launderers, dark-web drug dealers, and even crypto-funded child exploitation networks while working with the government.

Before taking the Binance position, Gambaryan had become well known for his record of pioneering high-impact cryptocurrency cases as an agent in the US Internal Revenue Service’s criminal investigations (IRS-CI) division.

Tigran Gambaryan
Tigran Gambaryan

From 2014 to 2017 alone, for instance, Gambaryan led the investigation into two corrupt federal agents who stole cryptocurrency from the Silk Road dark-web drug market and sold law enforcement intel to its creator.

He also tracked down 650,000 bitcoins stolen from the Mt. Gox exchange. He also helped develop a crypto tracing technique to find the server running the massive AlphaBay crime market as well as helped with the takedown of the Welcome to Video crypto-based child sexual abuse materials network.

Anjarwalla is an Oxford- and Stanford-educated government affairs specialist for Binance. He joined the crypto company a year ago. 

Nadeem Anjarwalla
Nadeem Anjarwalla

According to the WIRED, Gambaryan and Anjarwalla arrived in Abuja on February 25, their families say, following the Nigerian government’s invitation to address its ongoing dispute with Binance.

They met with Nigerian officials the next day, intending to speak to the government about its order to the country’s telecoms to block access to Binance and other cryptocurrency exchanges, which regulators blamed for devaluing its official currency, the naira, and for enabling “illicit flows” of funds.

Shortly after Gambaryan and Anjarwalla’s first meeting with the Nigerian government, however, Gambaryan and Anjarwalla were taken to their hotels, told to pack their things, and moved into a “guesthouse” run by Nigeria’s National Security Agency, according to their families. Officials seized their passports and have since held the two men at the house against their will for two weeks and counting.

The two men have access to a television and a balcony. Gambaryan has been visited by a US State Department official and Anjarwalla by a representative of the UK foreign office, their families say.

But Nigerian government guards have also remained present in those meetings, preventing them from speaking privately, the WIRED reported this morning.

Reactions from the family…

In her response to the report, Gambaryan’s wife, Yuki, points to that track record to argue that her husband has earned the support of the US government which she says now needs to help negotiate his freedom.

“He’s done so much good for this country throughout his career,” she says. “I believe it’s his turn to get the same amount of support from his country.” She says she’s not aware of what exactly the State Department or the US embassy in Abuja has done so far to extricate him.

SEC declares Binance operations in Nigeria illegal

Anjarwalla’s wife, Elahe wrote in a statement that he’s a “middle management employee of Binance with no decision-making authority.” She added that Anjarwalla, a Muslim, is being held during Ramadan. She also indicated that their infant son had his first tooth appear in the past two weeks and that their will reach his first birthday next week.

“Nadeem is a loving husband and father. He is my best friend,” she says. “All I want is for Nadeem to be allowed to come home to us.”

“There’s no definite answer for anything: how’s he’s doing, what’s going to happen to him, when he’s coming back,” says Gambaryan’s wife, Yuki Gambaryan was also quoted to have said. “And not knowing that is killing me”, she concludes.

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